For those just starting out, nursing may seem like a rather straightforward career path. The role that the public thinks of when nursing comes up, however, is just the start of your options. Not only are there numerous advanced positions, there are so many unique ways that you can customize and improve your career.
You can and will be able to work in a field of medicine that you find interesting and with a demographic of patients that you are most passionate about helping. On top of this, you can and will be able to find the perfect workplace that offers you the work/life balance that personally allows you to thrive.
This can be within the healthcare sector, or it can be outside of it. There are truly limitless options when your job is human health and care. Wherever people are, you are needed, and that gives you a lot of power and control in terms of where you can take your nursing career.
There are so many great career options for those working as or interested in becoming a nurse.
Career Options and Opportunities for Getting into Nursing
The options available to you begin right from the beginning of your career. You can get started directly with a BSN or work part-time and study part-time within healthcare by first training for a few weeks to become an assistant or aide. Regardless of what route you are taking, using the best option for you that allows you to become a nurse at your pace is critical to launching your nursing career with a bang.
Part-Time and Online
If you have to work to support yourself or your family, then you will need to find an online degree that is designed for this purpose. Not every degree is, even if it is online and flexible. Full-time or accelerated degrees require anywhere between eight to 12 hours’ worth of studying and education per day and are therefore not suitable for those who need to work.
Though it will take longer if you absolutely need the support or benefits that come with working, know that there are online nursing degrees that allow you to tackle just one course at a time. These are often designed for those already working within healthcare so that they can continue to provide the front-line support for healthcare staff while working towards joining the fray as an RN themselves.
If you already have a degree under your belt, then your best bet is to choose an accelerated bachelor of science in nursing. Some of the top nursing educators offer these accelerated degrees so that you can skip the credits you may already have under your belt. There are many non-nursing credits you may have likely already completed, and so long as you have earned those credits within the last ten years, you can use them to fast-track through your BSN.
At Marymount University, for example, you can enroll in the accelerated program if you have a C or better in anatomy & physiology with lab I and II, general chemistry or chemistry with lab, developmental psychology, microbiology with lab, nutrition, sociology and anthropology, and statistical analysis.
If you have a similar credit but not specifically one from the above list, get in touch, as the acceptance is at the discretion of the university, so if you can prove your competency and that you have learned a similar curriculum to what is needed, you may just be accepted.
What this means is that those with a STEM background are more likely to already have all the necessary credits, though you can transfer credits from almost any background and use that to speed up your BSN.
With accelerated degrees, you will often need to tackle the degree full-time. The good news is that they can also be completed in just 16 months – which is far faster than those attempting a part-time online degree.
Career APRN Options to Consider for Yourself
Of course, your nursing career does not stop at the RN level. In fact, it’s the opposite. Becoming an RN is just the beginning, and you have a long way to go. Understanding your options from here on out will be even more important, as the big decisions you make here will require a dedicated MSN. To help you learn more about the options and also how to make the right decisions for your future from here on out, use these excellent tips to get started:
How to Find the Right Specialization for You
With so many specializations to choose from, it can be daunting. Having a complete list and removing options you have absolutely no interest in is a great place to start, but with more roles being created every year and new opportunities on the horizon thanks to telehealth and expanding care privileges to APRNs, your best choice may change as time continues.
That is why it is important to look for a role that allows you to enjoy yourself the most. You can always go back and recertify in a different role or even move out of the health sector entirely, but if you push yourself into a role you don’t like from the get-go, then you will never enjoy your career as much as you deserve to.
If you don’t know what role best suits you, you need to explore. The best way to explore is, of course, first-hand. Work in other units, in different departments, and even change where you work. A good way to do this and get a good understanding of what you want out of your career is to become a travel nurse. It may seem daunting to go about without a stable job, but with the shortage of nurses and the coronavirus pandemic, you will not have a problem getting work as you go.
Travel nurses are, essentially, freelancers. As freelancers, they are brought in to help with shortages within hospitals and clinics in a variety of settings. This is the best way to enjoy first-hand experience and, more often than not, earn more than you would overall working in just one position.
Other ways that you can find that perfect specialization for your future is by reading and following with medical news and discoveries. Though nurses primarily focus on the care side of healthcare, it doesn’t hurt to be deeply interested and even fascinated with the science side of your specialization.
You can enjoy learning about mental health and mental illnesses and still have deep compassion for those who need mental health services. You can find cancer studies and the science behind oncology thrilling and still provide the care that patients need during this trying and worrying time in their lives.
In fact, being interested in the science side of your job can help you do a better job and can even help you spot things and provide better care overall. Nurses at every stage, after all, are the face that patients see. Nurses are therefore better positioned to notice changes or symptoms than doctors are.
Understanding Post-Master’s Certifications
Working first-hand and learning more about the field and its advancements are two very good ways when it comes to helping you decide where to specialize. It is not, however, a guarantee – and that’s okay. If you change your mind later, or if something in your life changes, meaning that your values and needs change, know that your career can change with you.
If you need to change roles entirely, you can earn a post-master’s certification. This is essentially just taking the specialized courses and credits of an MSN without taking the standard MSN courses that every degree offers. It’s faster than earning a full MSN and more affordable because of it, allowing you to retrain and get started with another role sooner.
Understanding and Using the eNLC
The career options and opportunities available to you don’t just exist in where you can specialize but in where you can work, too. Like many professions that require state certification, there are going to be limits in terms of where you can practice and what you can do. If you are just starting out and have the option, you may want to consider relocating to the state that allows you to practice how you want to.
If you earn your nursing license in a state that is not part of the eNLC, for example, then you will be limited in terms of where you can work. Often you won’t be able to go out of state without having to take the state exam, among other restrictions.
If you do have a multi-state license, then your options will be much bigger. Most of the states in the country are part of the enhanced Nurse Licensure Compact, with several more either partially included or are pending legislation to join.
It is estimated that in the future, all states will be part of the eNLC, which will allow nurses everywhere the ability to relocate freely, and more importantly, give states the ability to attract and entice a larger pool of nurses where they are most needed.
The Future of Healthcare
Healthcare is continually advancing, which means that the opportunities for you as a nurse are going to continue to grow throughout the year and the decades. One of the most prominent new directions for healthcare is telehealth, which opens up so many new possibilities for care. Done right, it will allow healthcare professionals like nurses to care for more patients with less effort. Add in the fact that telehealth offers the ability to work remotely, and more nurses can provide expert care outside of cities without taking a step back in their careers.
Looking Outside of the Health Sector
Nurses can work anywhere, which is why you are doing yourself a disservice if you don’t also look at the job opportunities outside of the health sector. You can work directly with people outside of hospitals and clinics as part of the health and safety team on a variety of projects. You can work on movie sets or with sports teams. You can be the on-site nurse for a big theatre production or the personal nurse for a patient.
You can also use your nursing experience in roles that don’t have you directly caring for others at all. You can teach a future generation of nurses instead or work in policy to help improve the quality of care and also the work/life balance for your future nurses.
With so many options, you can continually use your background in nursing throughout your career and provide so much good for the world in doing so.
With so many options and the possibility of forging your own way forward within nursing, it is imperative that you first explore your options and look deep within yourself. That introspection and exploration will help you make the right choices. You can always change your mind, but if you don’t have a clear idea of what you are most passionate about and what you need from your career, then you won’t find true fulfillment – and nursing can be an incredibly fulfilling career.
Reading, talking with other nurses, exploring job boards, and asking for advice are all habits you should get into now. If you can, try to get transferred or pick up a job as an RN working underneath the APRNs you aspire to be. In some cases, this may even be a prerequisite. To become a nurse midwife, for example, many courses require you to have worked on a mother-baby unit or under a midwife or doula beforehand.
Taking your time to really learn more about yourself and what interests you can help you make better choices for yourself and get more out of your education and your career. Take that time and use this guide to help you adapt what you want out of your career and life with the options ahead of you.